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Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

July 6, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
Hidden Ridge – Art in Wine

I was late. I had just left the outskirts of Napa headed south on the 29 when my phone rang. I lingered too long at a lunch in Calistoga and was late for my next appointment. Winemaker Timothy Milos was on the other end.

“Just wanted to check in and see where you were at,” he asked. In addition to being late, I was also lost. After another phone call to clarify the directions, I finally arrived at the custom crush facility we had agreed to meet at. But this wasn’t where we were supposed to be.

We were supposed to be atop one of the most rugged and hard to access vineyard sites in California. Hidden Ridge Vineyard, as its name implies, it’s off the beaten path. It is in fact so far off the path that it is only accessible with vehicles much more all wheel drive than my Mazda3. In the rainy weather of this past December, when I visited the Napa Valley, the normally difficult roads became impossible roads and so we settled on the civilized streets of the custom crush facility where the wine is made.

I am, “all about the vineyards,” or so I tell people, and so I was disappointed to not be atop the peak of what is no doubt a breathtaking site. There was however, an unexpected windfall to my letdown.

… Continue Reading

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

Frank Family Vineyards – In the King’s Court

I had a chip on my shoulder. I had a bad attitude. I walked alleyways and vineyards muttering the same four-letter word: Napa! Napa! NAPA!

You can’t pursue wine, particularly domestic wine, without tripping over praise and loathing for the juggernaut that is Napa. Like it or not, Napa is the very heart of American wine. Everything flows through Napa. American wine is relevant in the world, because of Napa.

But it wasn’t for me. Accepting Napa as a Lord of the Wines wasn’t my road, it wasn’t the way I was going. I like vineyards in the middle of nowhere and antique barns that house barrels instead of hay. I like it real, I like it gritty and I like it raw. I hate tour buses, I don’t pay $50 to taste, and I don’t buy drunken cases of wine. In other words: I DON’T DO NAPA! … Continue Reading

Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

July 29, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks 3 Comments
Chateau Montelena – Message in a Bottle

The mid morning fog still sat over the tops of the hills as we climbed the concrete steps before us. It has been a strange Summer throughout California and the northern end of the Napa Valley was cold on this mid-morning, despite being late July.

We had passed through the valley of the giants to arrive at our destination. We drove Past Napa and on through Oakville. Past the house that Mondavi built, the seat of an empire that was once glorious. Through St. Helena and past the mighty Beringer and Beaulieu Vineyards on to Calistoga. The vineyards were never ending, the wineries palatial and grand all around us. Napa is a stunning place.

We climbed higher up the forest lined stairway. Finally, over the tops of the stairs the famed giant amongst the tress of Calistoga began to reveal itself. The stone face, embraced with the firm grasp of ivy was one of the most iconic of the entire valley. Before us, in its timeless grandeur and dignity was Chateau Montelena. … Continue Reading

Merlot, A Fall From Grace

July 21, 2010 Merlot, The Press 9 Comments
Merlot, A Fall From Grace

“It’s all crap you know, the things they say about me. It’s all crap.” Merlot took a long drag from his cigarette. A glass of half drunk scotch sat on the bar before him. It was his fourth.

“It’s bad enough that I had to grow up under the shadow of that pompous jerk Cabernet my whole life. I suffered a lot of abuse because of him. Then that movie came out.” The movie was of course Sideways, the cult classic starring Paul Giamatti. Paul’s character, Miles, at one point bluntly refuses to drink “any EXPLETIVE Merlot.” The film, which centered around two best friends’ misadventures in Santa Barbara wine country is said to have given a huge boost to Pinot Noir sales, a varietal Paul’s character was particularly fond of. The opposite was said to be the case for Merlot, with sales reportedly dipping after the damning statement. … Continue Reading

Mondavi, King of the Valley

March 17, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks, Napa County Comments Off
Mondavi, King of the Valley

I know…I know…Mondavi is probably not the direction you would like to see me going with this project, especially after several posts on family wineries emphasizing environmental sustainability. But, I have my reasons for profiling Mondavi this week.

The first and most important reason is that you cannot talk about the history of California wine without talking about the efforts of Robert Mondavi. Like it or not, the empire he built is one of the key reasons California enjoys the global recognition it has today. The second reason, is one of logistics, like most Internet writers, I have a real job that keeps me quite busy. While I love to publish interviews with winemakers and proprietors as often as possible, I simply cannot visit all of them in person. By the time a profile gets published on the site, there are usually weeks and months of emails and phone conversations that have gone into the article. Winemakers are busy people, and although I have a dozen wineries waiting for their chance to shine, I simply have weeks with gaps in content because interviews have not been completed. This is one of those weeks. I promise some real interviews starting again next week. I will work to keep these kinds of posts to a minimum, but in certain instances like this week, they have their place. … Continue Reading

Harvesting the Wind, Anaba Wines

Harvesting the Wind, Anaba Wines

Green isn’t always a bad thing as it relates to wine. While a “green” or young wine, maybe unappealing to the palate, a “GREEN” or Eco-friendly wine may even taste better according to some enthusiasts. But what does it mean to be “GREEN” in the wine industry today? The sustainability movement in vineyard management is it’s self a green or young development. Regulators are still wrestling with “organic” and “sustainable” classifications. What makes a vineyard “organic” or “sustainable”? The movement is still in barrel, waiting to be bottled, and consumed by the masses so to speak. Yet, winery after winery marches forward into the green frontier. But, are they not really marching backwards, rediscovering the roots of their trade?

Wine is one of man’s oldest carnal pleasures and passions. From Bible times until present, a good glass of wine has brought joy to the soul and even health benefits. In comparison to the centuries of wine cultivation by organic means, modern farming techniques such as tractors, the use of chemicals to control pests, and even bioengineering, have played a small role. The Israelites of ye’ olde were not exactly rolling around in a King David 4000 (patent pending) spraying for mealy bugs. They were by default “organic” and therefore “green” operations. So it should be no surprise that wine can be made and in fact very good wine, with a much smaller impact on the environment around it. … Continue Reading

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Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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